Extracts from Latin medical translations supplied to previous customers


Twelve Prefaces to Pharmacopoeias (lists of medicinal drugs) dating from 1699 to 1817, and never before published in English. Several lengthy extracts from these translations formed the core of a chapter in Dr R Passmore's book on 18th-century medicine, "Fellows of Edinburgh's College of Physicians during the Scottish Enlightenment", Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (2001).

'Drugs...scarcely escape the vicissitudes of time. This is borne out both by their great variety and the advancement of skill in their use... There has practically ceased to be a standard for apothecaries. Therefore, lest due to the ignorance of apothecaries, the lives of the sick should be put in danger, or trust in doctors should fail, our College, with regard to the advantage of the community and its own honour, has desired the publication of this Pharmacopoeia, refined and augmented afresh.' (1721)

'...We use the term "spirit" to indicate the composition of alcohol, by distillation, with various volatile substances, particularly oils; we use the term "tincture" to denote the composition of alcohol with various other substances, particularly aromatics and resins, which are soluble in alcohol by the process of infusion...' (1803)

'...We are defining everything which we prescribe - liquids and solids alike - by weight alone. However, it will be acceptable to measure wine, water, and aqueous solutions; provided only that, for the purposes of measuring, glass utensils are used, whose capacities and marked divisions correspond exactly to the recognised medical scale and to its divisions and multiplications... When a specific weight is involved, we wish the substance to be measured in the form which it assumes at a temperature of 60° Fahrenheit...'(1817)


From historical treatises on sign language and secret codes, 1532-1663. Translations of these works of German provenance enabled a researcher attending conferences of the British Deaf History Society to contribute information on the historical development of sign language.

'The English scholar Bede...has recorded in writing the manner in which the ancient Latin people, sacred and profane, indicated numbers by use of their fingers and hands. ...And now at last, the science of reckoning and speech, described by Bede, is in a sense returning to its homeland. Johannes Trithemius was a master of the science of imparting information in this covert way, which he also calls "steganography" or secret writing...' (Johannes Aventinus, 1532)

'...Then you should position your fingers in this way, applying them to the alphabet in a twofold system, so that the little finger of the left hand takes on the force and significance of A and M; ...the index finger, that of D and P, ...the circumcised finger, H and T... Your friend should know of the difference by which you indicate whether the alphabetically earlier or later letter attached to a given finger requires to be expressed. In the former case, the finger should be stretched out,...but in the latter case, it should remain slightly curved...' (Gustavus Selenus, 1624)

'...Each of the topics, once committed to memory, takes the form of a fixed concept, or can be expressed by the gesture corresponding to one single letter. So, if someone wished to express some name, for example, Paul (PAVLVS), then he could show this by touching the feet (Pedes), ear (Auris), belly (Venter), tongue (Lingua), belly (Venter) and eyebrows (Supercilia).' (Athanasius Kircher, 1663)